A 2003 survey of Small Business Server users conducted by Lawrence Associates LLC offers a clue. It found that employees were able to perform an average of 20% more revenue-producing tasks, thanks in no small part to functions that allowed them to stay connected to their office computers while they were away.
Ann Westerheim knows about these productivity gains firsthand. As the president of Ekaru, a Westford, Mass., small-business technology adviser, she’s seen the benefits in client after client.
One of her customers is a small law office in which the principal attorney’s home is linked to the main office through a server’s remote-connectivity features. Another small-business client is a marketing firm with employees constantly on the go.
“Thanks to the server,” Westerheim says, “the connection between employees is seamless.”
Ask any small-business owner about server technology, and you may get an earful about the complexity of deployment — the costs of hiring a computer guru to pull a network together, buying the right hardware, and so forth. But many server experts today say that’s not the problem. Quite the opposite: A product such as Windows Small Business Server 2003 is relatively easy — and painless — to install, they say.
No, they say, the trouble is that today’s server software tends to be so rich in features that there’s a real chance that some of the best tools for productivity gains might be overlooked — or underused. So if you already have a server, or are considering one, here are a few connections in Windows Small Business Server 2003 you might have missed:
- You get the mobility features of Exchange.
If you’re already using Windows Small Business Server 2003, you’ve probably discovered that it incorporates Microsoft Exchange Server’s mobile-office friendly functions, such as its scheduling, contact, and task management. But did you also know that Exchange supports mobile devices such as Pocket PCs and Smartphones? It also allows users to access their e-mail remotely through a simple Web browser, via Outlook Web Access. Exchange also comes with a few lesser-known benefits that will affect your productivity, like anti-spam and virus protection features.
- Hey, there’s a VPN in there too.
The Remote Web Workplace, a robust Web resource for remote users, offers access to e-mail, remote desktops, and your company’s internal Web site, and is one of the key connectivity features in Small Business Server. But what you might not know is that the program also includes advanced virtual private network (VPN) capabilities that are easy to turn on. (Incidentally, setting up a VPN is remarkably simple, all things considered. No, you can’t do it in three easy steps, but the document available at this page will show you how to do it in 11 steps. See “Manual Configuration of a VPN Remote Access Connection.”)
- Collaborate and share with SharePoint.
You may have also noticed that Small Business Server 2003 uses Windows SharePoint Services, which enables you to collaborate among employees and business partners. For instance, users can post documents into shared libraries and peruse a company’s vacation calendar to make sure they’re not overlapping with a co-worker’s off-time. For mobile workers, Windows SharePoint Services also allows you to synchronize data in Microsoft Office Outlook 2003 with data from SharePoint, so you trade and update leads with a team of co-workers even while you’re away.
- Work safe and secure.
The security features in Small Business Server 2003 are pretty impressive. You may have heard that because the program is based on Windows Server 2003, it can mitigate attacks against the server by 60%. You may also know that Small Business Server 2003 includes internal firewalls and that it supports external firewalls. But the security also extends to you and your employees when you’re out of the office. Small Business Server 2003 helps make it easy for your entire office to share files across the network, from anywhere, without having to worry so much about security. You also can easily do regular data backups, via the Backup Configuration Wizard.
For advanced security and Internet connectivity needs, Small Business Server’s premium edition includes Microsoft Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA) Server 2000.
But do you need a server? Not necessarily. Mike Landman, the president of 3rd Wave, an Atlanta-based information-technology solutions provider, says every business isn’t a candidate for a server. But most of them are.
“We would recommend a file server for every company over two people,” he says. Not only does it offer advanced connectivity features, but it also allows you to perform advanced centralization and backup tasks, he notes. “The productivity gains are quite high.”